In the coming months Hamas will likely find itself increasingly under assault both politically and military, including having to endure another large-scale Israeli offensive in Gaza, according to informed Middle East security officials.
Egypt, the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian Authority all believe that to achieve a PA-led Palestinian state, Hamas’s power must be greatly reduced in the near future, the security officials said.
“There are preparations to seriously and dramatically weaken Hamas,” a Middle East security official told this column.
Actions apparently are already being taken to isolate Hamas both politically and militarily. Egypt, aided by the U.S., began constructing a steel wall beneath its border with Gaza with the goal of isolating the territory’s Hamas rulers while also working to stem the underground smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Gaza.
This column has learned that Egyptian forces have also encircled the Egyptian Rafah border village, where they have been carrying out raids against militant strongholds associated with Hamas.
In a further sign of frustration between Egypt and Hamas, last week an Egyptian border guard was killed and at least 15 Palestinians were wounded in clashes over Egypt’s delay of an international aid convoy intended for the Gaza Strip. The convoy was being led by extremist British parliamentarian George Galloway.
Israel is also changing its approach to Hamas.
“It used to be that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu was happy with the status quo of a weak PA and strong Hamas so that he could argue there is no peace partner. Now he is under pressure to remove Hamas as an obstacle to a Palestinian state,” an Egyptian security official said.
Israel in recent weeks reduced the amount of shipments allowed into Gaza in a possible effort to generate Palestinian frustration with Hamas, Middle East security officials said.
Netanyahu has also changed tactics in negotiations with Hamas over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In earlier negotiations Netanyahu proposed a prisoner exchange deal that would see hundreds of Palestinian convicts freed – a deal that would surely strengthen Hamas. According to the Egyptian security official, however, Netanyahu’s latest offer to Hamas was less generous than any of Netanyahu’s previous offers, even removing from the list Palestinian convicts that Netanyahu had agreed to release just weeks ago.
“Netanyahu clearly wants to sabotage the Shalit deal,” said the Egyptian security official.
Hamas, however, may recognize that the winds are shifting. According to reports, the terrorist organization responded positively to Netanyahu’s latest prisoner exchange offer, sending signals through a German mediator that it is ready to move forward with a deal.
Also, Hamas, perhaps feeling the heat, has expressed willingness to finally enter into a unity agreement with its rivals from PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s party.
Meanwhile, Middle East security officials did not discount the possibility that Israel would launch a major raid of the Gaza Strip similar to last year’s 22-day operation that saw dozens of targets bombed and ground troops operating in Gaza. The officials did not talk about the timing of any such raid, but said if progress continues to create a Palestinian state an eventual war in Gaza is likely.
Selling Land To Jews Is A Dangerous Game
An Israeli court this week convicted a suspected agent of the Palestinian Authority for attempting to kidnap an Israeli Arab accused of selling property in Jerusalem to Jews. Abdullah Khader, a Palestinian who had been living in eastern Jerusalem, received 11 months in prison for the attempted kidnapping.
Israeli security officials familiar with the case said the indictment, which has not been released to the public, accuses Khader of working on behalf of Osama Mansour, an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Asthis reporter discovered two years ago, the PA had established an intelligence apparatus in Jerusalem to clamp down on Israeli Arabs selling property to Jews in strategic areas of the city.
A contingent of Jewish groups, including an organization called Ateret Kohanim, work to strengthen the Jewish presence in Jerusalem by purchasing properties from Arabs, primarily in eastern neighborhoods, including in Jerusalem’s Old City. Some of the purchased properties were formerly Jewish until Jews fled during Arab riots in the early 1900s.
Security sources speaking in January 2008 said the PA’s Preventative Security Services had re-established an intelligence arm in Jerusalem originally formed in the 1990s by the late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat to work at frustrating Jewish attempts at purchasing property from Arabs.
The intelligence arm consists of activists who work in Jerusalem to identify Israeli Arabs willing to sell land to Jews, the sources said. Potential Arab sellers are warned against doing business with Jewish groups. The sources did not specify particular measures the PA might take against Arabs working to sell property to Jews, but in the past, cases have been made public in which Arabs have been killed or tortured for such activity.
According to security sources, to ensure against land sales, the PA put together a list of wealthy Palestinian and Arab donors willing to purchase property from Jerusalem Arabs who must sell their land due to financial desperation.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “The Late Great State of Israel.” Follow Klein on Twitter under the name “AaronKleinWND.”